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Lost City

DJ Excalibah

2 July 07 words: Jack Curtis
"I've always believed that normal people with a modicum of intelligence and common sense can do anything they put their mind to"
DJ Excalibah by Jake Green

DJ Excalibah is probably best known for his award winning 1Xtra show; Tales From the Legend. Since leaving 1Xtra in 2005, Excalibah continues to smash up dance floors across the country. He writes regularly for music magazines such as Hip Hop Connection and is currently in the process of directing his first play. I caught up with him before the biggest independent hip hop event in the country; The UK Takeover.

You're a DJ, producer, actor, journalist, broadcaster and even a theatre director. Is there anything you can't do?
Yeah there are loads of things I can’t do - yet! I’ve always believed that normal people with a modicum of intelligence and common sense can do anything they put their mind to. I never really decided to be any of the above. I just wandered into those various careers with a weird curiosity that needed satisfying. The only thing I knew I was sure of was that I loved performance art and music, and to be honest there is nothing on my résumé which hasn’t fallen into one of those categories.

Tell us a little about this play you are directing.
It’s a play written in 1957 by Jean Genet. He was a French playwright, who despite being from a pretty well off background decided to be a petty thief and moved in the underworld through choice. He was quite an anti-authoritarian person and many of his plays deal with deconstructing figures or images of authority. The play I’m adapting and co-directing is called The Blacks. It looks at stereotypes and the use of the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’ and all that they encompass. It also looks at what ‘white’ has done in Africa, specifically at the time it was written at the height of the apartheid. We’re using a cast of hip-hop artists and performance poets to achieve a similar feel to the fifties version, which used a company of circus performers and acrobats.

What is your favourite play?
That’s an incredibly hard question to answer. I’ve seen a lot of theatre and I’ve seen a lot of limited runs that others may not have seen. If I were going to pick something classic it would probably be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Othello. More recent contemporary pieces I’ve enjoyed are: The Wasp Factory, a play called Scrape of the Black, and a dramatisation of the Steven Lawrence Trial.
Plays aren’t like film. They’re not immortalised and captured. Every performance is a different interpretation of the words by the director, the designer and the cast. I think that makes it a lot harder to just pick a favourite play in the same way as you would pick a piece of music, a painting, or a film.

DJ Excalibah by Paul HA lesser known Excalibah fact is that you are also a ‘psychological magician.’ How did you get into magic and do you think that it helps in other areas of your life such as your theatre work?
I got into it through my granddad who would take a coin and make it disappear by either throwing it behind him or sticking it in his armpit. You could say I was a little gullible at the age of four! I think the two (theatre and magic) inform each other. To me, performing a psychological effect is the same as performing a play. Every move and word is picked to ensure the right response. Take Derren Brown's shows for example. His performances are highly theatrical which often use lighting, sound and visuals to heighten the emotions of the audience.

Who are your top five magicians?
This is going to be a list of people most people have never heard of. First up is the combination of Derren Brown and Andy Nyman. These two are responsible for most of Derren’s televised performances and their writings continually inspire me. An example of this would be a piece in one of Derren’s early books called You’re supposed to be reading minds, which is about the performance of psychological magic. For me that’s the important part. It doesn’t matter what information you’re acquiring, it’s how you enter the room, the tone you use, and how you feed that information back. Third on my list would be Dr. Hoy who has invented some of the boldest techniques there are for reading people’s thoughts. Fourth and fifth would be the fathers of modern thought reading: Theodore Annemann and Joseph Dunninger, who were both incredibly popular in the first half of the last century and shaped the way the art is performed today.

What are your overall opinions of the Nottingham hiphop scene?
Healthy, productive and a little over saturated like most cities scenes. There is some incredible talent in the likes of Joe Buhdha, C-Mone, J Gold and Gully, Karizma, the Elements, and Shifty Spirit but then there are also a load of people, just like anywhere else, who would be better suited to the delicatessen of Tescos.

Which UK artists are you currently rating?
Sway, Klashnekoff, Wiley, Shameless, Plan B, Mark Ronson, Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Kyza, Ghetto, Kano, Mr Hudson, Amy Winehouse. There are just too many to mention at the moment, the UK music scene is producing a lot of very credible very talented artists at the moment.

When this edition of this magazine is printed, England will be smoke free. Are you for or against the ban?
I’m for the ban, but I do believe it should be a little more lenient. I think that hookah bars should be allowed to operate because people go to these venues for the sole reason of smoking. Other than that I think it’s a good move. When I was playing in Norway not too long ago, I noticed the club I was in was smoke free and it really was a most pleasurable experience.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
Still here, hopefully. There are so many things I’d like to do. I’d like to be recognised as an artist. I’d like to perform on the Vegas strip. I’d like to live on a remote island. I’d like to write a couple novels or release a few albums or write a play or two. There are so many options and they’re all viable and can all happen if I want them to.

Anything else you would like to say to the LeftLion readers?
Keep supporting home grown talent; visit local theatres, watch British independent cinema and buy, don’t download music . You can start by supporting my pretty little self by becoming a friend of mine at Peace.

DJ Excalibah on MySpace

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